SANTA FE—It was a political nerd’s dream. Dozens of people aiming for state office filed through the elevator doors into the New Mexico Secretary of State’s office on Tuesday to navigate the three-stage process of declaring their candidacy. The day offered a rare early opportunity for candidates and their staff to interact with one another—which included a lot of smiles and polite handshakes, even across party lines. The process was straightforward—there were three stations to verify and confirm paperwork and petition signatures—and took about 20 minutes for most candidates. Here are my notes from the field: 9:05 a.m. I’m running late, because I’m from New Mexico.
Some resources from national Democrats are trickling into New Mexico in an attempt to swing the state’s 2nd Congressional District from Republicans to Democrats. The national party is doing that as many predict a “wave” election for Democrats, and a chance to return the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives to Democrats. To do that, Democrats will need to win in traditionally-Republican districts and retain all their own districts. This puts New Mexico on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s radar. Next year’s election will see two New Mexico congressional districts without an incumbent running for reelection.
Democratic candidates enjoyed a good night nationwide and in New Mexico on Tuesday. In New Mexico, three Democrats won three city council elections in Las Cruces. In one case, they flipped a Republican city council seat to Democratic. Gabe Vasquez, Gill Sorg and Yvonne Flores, all of whom ran on progressive platforms, won Tuesday night according to unofficial numbers. The races are officially nonpartisan, but party lines were evident in the campaigns.
Albuquerque mayoral candidates have about a week to file their next campaign finance reports. For most, it will be their first reports filed this election. While many of the candidates speak highly of public financing, only one has qualified for it. New Mexico Democrats, for example, have pushed for more publicly financed races and campaigns since at least 2008, when the party added language to their state platform that says“all political campaigns should be publicly financed.”
The Albuquerque mayoral race is nonpartisan, so none of the candidates will be identified with any specific political party on the ballot. Related: Privately-funded ABQ mayoral candidates ready for first reporting deadline
Mayoral candidates Deanna Archuleta and Brian Colón are both prominent Democrats running for mayor who both opted to use private funds for their campaigns.
On Thanksgiving, U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich called on President Barack Obama to reroute the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline and condemned the response by police to protests. Native Americans and others have protested pipeline over recent weeks over a fear that it would imperil the Standing Rock Sioux Nation’s only water source. The pipeline’s path was already moved once, from near Bismarck. Part of the reason was the risk to the city’s water supply. Update: Heinrich concerned over violence against Standing Rock protesters
“Today is Thanksgiving and I cannot help but reflect on our history in these United States and how often it has not lived up to the rosy picture of Pilgrims and Indians sharing a meal in friendly company that I saw in textbooks as a child,” Heinrich said in a statement.
The state Democratic and Republican parties will have new leadership next year. Democratic Party of New Mexico Chair Debra Haaland and Republican Party of New Mexico Chair Debbie Maestas both announced they would not run for a second term in their positions. Republicans will pick a new chair in mid-December, while Democrats will pick a new chair next April. This year’s elections saw Democrats retake control of the state House of Representatives, expand their margin in the state Senate and won the race for Secretary of State. But Republicans had some good news when their candidate won a seat on the state Supreme Court.
The Republican Party of New Mexico says the chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico should step down because of her actions at the Democratic pre-primary convention earlier this year. The state Republicans say that the cancellation of a non-binding presidential preference poll at the pre-primary convention in March shows the state party had bias toward Hillary Clinton. The party previously criticized Haaland for supporting Clinton after she defeated Bernie Sanders in the New Mexico Democratic primary, saying it was against Democratic party rules. “Much like Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the DNC, Haaland’s and the DPNM establishment’s bias toward Clinton was clear throughout the primary,” RPNM spokesman Tucker Keene said. “Haaland broke party rules to shelter her favored candidate from the embarrassment of losing a straw poll.
During the legislative session earlier this year, something very typical happened: an attempt to create an independent ethics commission failed to pass the Senate. NM Political Report wrote about the history of this happening over the last decade. This year’s version was pushed by Rep. Jim Dines, an Albuquerque Republican. Dines’ legislation would have put the question to voters to decide if such a commission should be created under the state constitution. One issue that received pushback was how the ethics commission in Dines’ proposal would have published all of the ethics complaints, even those deemed frivolous, after a review by the commission.
In a sign of just how unpopular the two presidential candidates for major parties are, both Secretary of State candidates are fielding attacks for supporting their own party’s nominee. The Democratic Party of New Mexico hammered Republican Secretary of State candidate Nora Espinoza for speaking at rallies headlined by Trump running mate Mike Pence. “Nora Espinoza’s embracing Donald Trump’s misguided values will do nothing to restore integrity to the secretary of state’s office or to help implement the reforms New Mexico needs,” DPNM Vice-Chair Juan Sanchez III said in a statement earlier this week. Related: Poll: Clinton leads Trump in NM, Toulouse Oliver leads SOS race
Friday, the Republican Party of New Mexico responded by saying Democratic candidate Maggie Toulouse Oliver’s support of Hillary Clinton was problematic. “Toulouse Oliver cannot credibly campaign on an ethics platform if she thinks Hillary Clinton should be president despite her long history of dishonesty and crooked dealings,” RPNM spokesman Tucker Keene said in a statement.
U.S. Sen. Tom Udall and Democratic Party of New Mexico chairman Deb Haaland teamed up to cast the state’s votes for U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as Clinton clinched the Democratic presidential nomination. New Mexico cast 27 votes for Clinton and 16 votes for Sanders. The votes came as a result of a June primary, which Clinton narrowly won, and the votes of super-delegates, who unanimously supported Clinton. Clinton ultimately was nominated by acclamation, at the request of Sanders himself who has fought throughout the convention to unify Democrats against Donald Trump, even as some of his supporters insist they will not back Clinton. Those speaking to announce the votes and the state, however, are firmly on Hillary’s team.